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How to Create Your Own Social Media Calendar in 7 Simple Steps

Kirsti Lang
Kirsti Lang Content Writer @ Buffer
How to Create Your Own Social Media Calendar in 7 Simple Steps
Summary

16 min read
You will learn

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

As a super Type-A person, that’s a favorite expression of mine. Having spent many years managing various social media platforms in marketing and media, I’ve learned the hard way that this is one area where you absolutely cannot wing it. Especially if you’re managing multiple channels. 

You need a social media content calendar.

A social media calendar is a game changer when building a social media presence, be it as someone building your personal brand, a creator, or a social media manager

I’ll walk you through exactly how to create your own calendar using Buffer. I’ll also share expert guidance on why you need a social media calendar, plus the system we use in our marketing team at Buffer.

How to create your own social media calendar from scratch

Buffer is a social media scheduling tool built to make it easier to grow your following online. It’s a one-stop-shop for the entire process — from brainstorming to publishing, right on to analyzing content performance. 

There are a host of other perks to housing your social media calendar in Buffer — beyond the ability to plan and schedule in a single tool:

  • A high-level monthly view for big-picture planning.
  • A more in-depth weekly view to see all the key details at a glance.
  • The ability to exclude certain channels from view for extra clarity and focus.
  • Access it anywhere. Thanks to Buffer’s mobile app, you can check or amend your calendar on the go. 
  • More to come! The calendar is a big focus for us at the moment, and we have some really exciting plans for it.

📲 Download the Buffer app for iOS here

📲 Download the Buffer app for Android here

I’m going to walk you through exactly how to create yours in Buffer’s free social media calendar, take you beyond planning, and right into scheduling. 

Templates! Who doesn’t love free templates? If you’re not ready to DIY your calendar just yet, here are 7+ social media content calendar templates to get you started.

1. Define your social media strategy

Before you even open a calendar tool, a social media strategy should be your first port of call. 

If you’re a creator and not a social media manager, it will be tempting to skip this step. But trust me, a marketing strategy is not just for Marketing teams. It’s a crucial step in social media success. Random posting = random results. Having clear goals, understanding your target audience, and defining your content pillars will make your marketing efforts much easier and more successful in the long run. 

Don’t just take it from me — I love this Reel by @stanforcreators, which outlines just how important it is for creators and their unique approach to creating one.

This doesn’t involve pages and pages — even just a single-page content strategy will help you get crystal clear on your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. 

You’ll find our complete social media strategy guide here, and it’s well worth working your way through it if you’re just starting (there’s even a template there, too!). Here’s a high-level overview of your steps:

  1. Pinpoint your ‘why.’ Why do you need to be active on social media? What is your ultimate goal?
  2. Define your target audience. Who are you trying to reach with your content?
  3. Define your content pillars. What are you going to share, and why will it resonate?
  4. Choose your platforms. Which social media sites will you use to reach your audience? How many social platforms should you choose?
  5. Set your cadence. Decide on your posting frequency (which may differ from platform to platform).

2. Connect your channels

Congratulations, the toughest part is out of the way! With your strategy in hand, you’re ready to connect your social media accounts to Buffer. First, make sure you’re logged in to those social profiles in the browser or on the device you’re using.

If you’re new to Buffer, head over here to create your free account. From there, click Connect Channels (you can connect up to three for free).

If you’re already a Buffer user, head over to account.buffer.com/channels, and choose Connect Channel. You could also click on your profile avatar at the top right of your dashboard and click Account, then Channels.

Click on the channel you'd like to connect. (If you already have channels connected, click Connect New Channel and then click the channel you'd like to connect.)

create your own social media calendar in buffer

The process is pretty straightforward, but we have an in-depth guide to connecting channels in Buffer in our help center, plus specific how-tos for each platform if you run into any problems.

3. Create your tagging system

Color coding is my organizational love language (you should see my bookshelf), so Buffer’s new feature addition, Tags, has changed the game for me when it comes to content planning. 

There are a host of ways to use Tags that will be incredibly useful in your social media management system. You could use them to tag posts by:

  • Content pillar (my personal favorite)
  • Post status (idea, draft, ready to publish)
  • Format or type of content (text, video, photo, carousel)
  • Platform (while you’ll be able to see which social media app your post is scheduled on in the calendar, this could be useful if you’re also saving ideas here for, say, a blog)

What’s really neat about Tags is that they translate over to the Analytics section, too, so you can measure up the performance of one grouping against another. This has been incredibly useful for me as I experiment with my content pillars to see which resonate the most with my audience.

To create your Tags, click on Publishing at the top left of the screen, then Create just beneath that. 

create your own social media calendar in buffer

Then head over to Manage Tags on the bottom left of your screen and click Create Tag on the top right.

create your own social media calendar in buffer

A pop-up will appear where you can add your tag name and choose a color to represent it. (All the color options were specifically chosen because they work well together, so any combination will be aesthetically pleasing if, like me, you’re into that!) 

create your own social media calendar in buffer
🏷️
Here are more Tags ideas from the Buffer team and community. 

4. Get your ideas down

Ready for a brain dump? You likely have a solid idea of the kind of content you’re creating thanks to your strategy work in Step 1. Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on the actual content creation. 

This is where Buffer’s Create space comes in. It’s a versatile system that you can use in plenty of different ways, but if you’re working on building out your calendar, I’d advise you start by using it as a hub for all your ideas. You can view everything in a gallery, or organize your ideas into boards (as I’ve done in the image below). 

As a creator, anything I share on one of my social channels will start in this space first. 

Top tip: Don’t worry about making all your social media posts beautiful right away. Even if all you have is a half-baked idea or a reminder about an important product launch, a brief note works just fine here, too. Just get it down — you can refine it later.

My posts often start out this way (like the Create cards you’ll see in the screenshot), which I then flesh out as inspiration strikes and polish up before adding them to my publishing schedule. 

To create an idea, click Create in the top left corner, then Create Idea on the top right.

Right here, you can:

  1. Add your copy or caption (or placeholder text)
  2. Choose your Tag/s
  3. Add media, like video or photos
  4. Add directly from Buffer integrations (like Canva, Dropbox, Google Drive, Unsplash, and more)
  5. Get help from Buffer’s AI Assistant when you’re stuck
create your own social media calendar in buffer

You can save the idea to keep it in your Create space by clicking the Save Idea button or scheduling it right away with the Create Post button (more on this below).

5. Set up your Queue

At Buffer, we think of the posting schedule for every social media platform as a Queue — basically, set time slots every week for posting.

You don’t have to stick to this, of course, but it’s a really handy way to commit to the cadence you laid out in your social media strategy. As time goes on and you experiment with different timings and frequencies on all the platforms you’re using, you’ll be able to pinpoint the slots that work well for your target audience. 

If you’re just starting out, we have some handy resources on optimal post-timing! Here’s the best time to post on Instagram, the best time to post on TikTok, the best time to post on Facebook, and the best time to post on LinkedIn.

When you first start with Buffer, the platform will automatically assign times in your Queue. (Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that something will automatically be published. Think of these times as empty placeholders or posting slots that you can use, tweak, or leave as you see fit.)

To set up your Queue, click on Publishing on the top left, then choose the channel you want to tweak in the list on the left-hand side. 

create your own social media calendar in buffer

On the right of the window, you’ll see the Queue that Buffer has automatically created for the channel. To change your Queue times, click on the gear icon next to your chosen time zone. 

Here in the posting schedule settings, you can:

  1. Add a new posting time
  2. Turn off posting on specific days
  3. Remove times from your current schedule (hover over the time, then click on the arrow that pops up)
  4. Clear your Queue completely
create your own social media calendar in buffer

You might choose to leave these slots as is — you can edit your scheduled times in the calendar, after all — but it’s a good idea to be aware of the Queue timings for all your channels (you’ll see why in Step 6 below).

6. Start planning

Now that you have a host of great ideas ready and waiting to be published on your social media channels, it’s finally time to get them on the calendar.

To do so, select an idea that’s ready to go in Create. Then click on the Create Post button at the bottom of the pop-up.

Next, choose which channels you want to post the update on. 

create your own social media calendar in buffer

If you’ve selected multiple platforms, scroll down within the window to tailor each one for the social network it’s going on. Buffer will let you know if the post fits into the limitations (like text, or video, or photo size and dimensions) for each channel.

create your own social media calendar in buffer

Choose Add to Queue. This schedules your post for the next available slot in your Queue, leaving any other posts you already have scheduled in place. Don’t worry, you can still tweak this time slot!

You can also click on the dropdown arrow to Share Next (go to the very next spot in your Queue, bumping any other content already in that slot to the next slot) or Share Now (publish right away).

Of course, you don’t have to start putting your posts together in Create — you can create new content directly in the Calendar, too. 

Click on Calendar in the top left corner, and you’ll be taken to a week view. (I like to use month view when I’m doing some serious content planning, which you can do by clicking Month on the top right corner. It all comes down to personal preference.)

create your own social media calendar in buffer

To add to the calendar, click Create Post on the top right.

create your own social media calendar in buffer

You’ll be taken to a similar pop-up window as mentioned in the Create Post section of Create where you can add text and media, get help from Buffer’s AI assistant, and more. When the post is ready to go, hit Add to Queue, Share Next, or Share Now, as above. 

You also have the option to save the post as a draft if you’re not quite ready to schedule or if you need approvals from another team member or stakeholder.

Finding your saved drafts is really easy — just click on the channel you saved the post for, then Drafts at the top of the screen.

create your own social media calendar in buffer

7. Fine-tune your calendar

With your content ready and raring to go, play around with your calendar to find the perfect mix for each day, week, and month. As long as the post hasn’t been published, you can tweak everything to your heart’s content. 

To see the details of each post in your calendar, hover over the card. Hit Delete to remove the post entirely, or Share Now to publish it immediately. 

To make changes to the post, click Edit. Here, you can change everything from the publish date to the content itself. 

In the monthly calendar view, you can also drag and drop cards on different days to have them go live at the same time on that new date. In the week view, you can do the same, but drag it into a new time slot to change that, too. 

Check in with your calendar at the beginning of each day to see what you have scheduled and refine your content if need be.

As much as it pays to be proactive with your calendar and schedule posts in advance, social media often needs reactive work, too. There might be a new trending TikTok sound you need to jump on right away. On the flip side, global events might mean you have to tweak your messaging, curate your content, or overhaul your plan completely.

Streamline your workflow by creating Hashtag Groups to save you time when it comes to posting. To do so, click the hashtag symbol at the bottom of the post creation window, then on the right-hand side, Create Hashtag group.

5 reasons you need a social media calendar

Save time and organize your processes

A social media calendar can help you save time by keeping all your ideas and posts in one place. 

A calendar also allows you to create content in advance when you have the big picture of when everything is meant to go out. This is essential for team collaboration if you’re working with other people in a marketing team. It can also help you mitigate the risk of mistakes by allowing you to review content ahead of time.

If you use a social media management tool like Buffer to house your calendar, you can schedule it from there, too, helping you to optimize and automate your workflows. 

social media calendar

When creating a social media calendar, Colin Toh at Headphonesty looks at two factors: “When my audience is most active and if there are any relevant events to tie content into. I create my content calendar three months in advance by following trends and around product drops and review schedules.”

Identify and execute more ambitious social media campaigns

A calendar helps you create a big picture and identify social media campaigns for your team to execute. If you know that a big company event is coming up, or a product will be launched in a few months, you can create a detailed campaign.

social media content calendar

Vikki Tokarz, Head of Community at Scribe, finds calendars very useful for organizing social media marketing campaigns, especially if the campaign is multi-faceted and lengthy — anything more than a day or two is not manageable without one.

Calendars are also great for visualizing how each planned post for your campaigns might look on your feed, as Caleigh Alleyne, PR & Communications Manager at Storytap can attest.

She says, “[With calendars]...we can plan the order of posts to flow the best and create visuals that feel cohesive in the feed and on our grid, but also have a quick way to see how our campaigns will work with our regular content from both a timing and a visual perspective.”

Once you organize your processes, you can focus all your energy on creativity. You can also keep track of social, cultural, and historical moments that are relevant to your audience or brand to tap into for future campaigns.

Improve posting consistency

Growing an audience is no longer as simple as just posting when you feel like it. Consistency factors into a lot of platforms’ decisions to push certain content. Basically, the more consistently you post, the better your chances of getting in front of your target audience.

“Frequency is something we think about a lot, and while we want to maintain a constant social presence, we use the calendar to plan for the seasonal ebbs and flows of business and ramp up or scale back posts accordingly,” says John Li, co-founder of Fig Loans.

social media scheduling

A sharing schedule can help you increase traffic and audience engagement, especially if you’re providing your audience with valuable and relevant information. Plus, by scheduling content to go out like clockwork, you never have to miss key posting times again.

Caleigh Alleyne has found a sharing rhythm where she can publish content on the best days. She shares that calendars help determine what content performs best in a monthly schedule and provide a visual for what the content and creative assets will look like.

“This is also helpful to draw month-over-month comparisons and understand how our growth and engagement rate shift throughout the month,” she says.

Create higher-quality content

When you start organizing your content topics either on your own or with your social media team, the chances are that through a surge of creativity, you could end up with a lot of new ideas. Even if something can’t be used immediately, you can save it for future use. Mixing new ideas with evergreen content can be a good way to make sure your calendar is always updated.

Vikki Tokarz also has some important advice for creating social media calendar content. “Write timely, viral content when you have it, and schedule your ‘bread and butter’ (evergreen) content to cultivate a persistent, relatable social presence.”

Every platform has different rules that work for it. Planning for each channel can help you identify opportunities to repurpose content or create entirely new posts.

social media content calendar
💡
You can create, manage, and approve draft posts on the Buffer mobile app.

Finding the balance between timely and evergreen content is key. Sometimes winging it with viral moments will work, but quality content requires a level of preparation and effort.

Randomly picked topics that don’t resonate with your audience can hurt your engagement. A planned content calendar will allow you to spot such blunders, so you only publish fresh and relevant content.

Improve tracking and analysis of performance

A calendar can also help you track post and campaign performance. By monitoring and analyzing your audience’s engagement and feedback, you can gain valuable insights into their preferences which you can later apply to your content.

Consider adopting Bryan Maniotakis' (MinimalGoods.co) strategy for experimenting with and analyzing content.

“If I focus on a certain type of content for a week, I can quickly compare the results (engagement/ following/etc) with another type of content in a different week, to get a better understanding of group performance over time.”

Analyzing content performance can also show you where you need to double down on your efforts or cut out the content entirely. For example, Facebook’s organic reach has slowed for a lot of accounts, but paid ads continue to perform well.

Knowing whether you need to invest in more paid ads or organic content can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

social media analytics

The social media calendar system we use at Buffer

At Buffer, we have X/Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Threads, and Mastodon accounts. We’re most active on X, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube. We’re a small team, so we’re prioritizing the social networks our target audience is most active on — but it’s still a lot to manage.

Enter: Our super-efficient content calendar system. We have a dual-tool system, as we log every piece of content we share — whether it’s a social media post, blog article, or new marketing release in the same content calendar in Notion. From there, our social media posts are moved into Buffer to be scheduled. 

As a tools junkie, I’ve tried out a host of systems in my career, but when I started at Buffer in August 2023, I was blown away by the content workflow. While it might look complicated, it’s really easy to get to grips with and will give everyone at the company a bird’s-eye view of the content landscape at any given moment. 

Here’s how that works:

  1. Our Social Media Manager, Mitra Mehvar, pulls resources from our blog content calendar and our marketing launch plan to share on social. She fills in the gaps with her own brilliant content ideas, often related to remote work, life at Buffer, or life as a Social Media Manager, small business owner, or content creator.
  2. She creates cards for each post in our content calendar in Notion, tagging them with the social channels she plans to post them to. 
  3. She’ll draft all the required copy, and, if necessary, record a video. The copy and video link will go right in the relevant Notion card.
  4. Mitra will let our Head of Content and Communications, Hailley Griffis, know when the posts are ready for checking. Hailley usually gives her the thumbs up straight away. 
  5. Mitra copies the content into Buffer to schedule the posts and move them around if need be.
  6. Finally, she checks back in often to monitor the content performance metrics right in Buffer’s analytics dashboard.

Choosing the right tool for your social media calendar

When I first started out as a Social Media Manager, I hacked together a social media planning system and editorial calendar in a table in Microsoft Word (I don’t want to talk about it). Thankfully, times have changed a whole lot since then — there are a host of brilliant tools out there you can use for your social media calendar.

I may be biased, but Buffer is undoubtedly the best option if you’re looking for an all-in-one planning, scheduling, and analytics social media management tool. Notion is brilliant if you’re mapping out content outside social media platforms. Then there’s Asana, Trello (both project management tools), Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or even Google Calendar. 

My point is: Figure out what feels right for you. While deciding on a system might feel like a make-or-break in your process, try not to overthink it too much. There’s no real way you can know whether it will work for you until you try it. 

If you try one and it’s not working out, migrating to a new tool won’t be the end of the world. Don’t be afraid to experiment — as long as you have a social media calendar that works for you, you’re well on your way to success. 

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